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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

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I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Grief and Cream of Celery Soup

This past week we marked the ninth year since my precious nephew died, suddenly and tragically.

The passing of time does not diminish our memory, and we think of him often.  He was a cheerful lad, quick to hug, full of smiles and dreams.  We miss him.

When we heard the news, we left almost immediately to be with our family.   The grief you hear about happening to others had now happened to us.  Those times can be surreal… you keep breathing and moving, and yet your mind is trying to process what happened.  

I was given a task when we arrived at the coast where my family lived.  We realized that many people would come to the memorial.  He was popular, and loved.

And so my brother asked if I would organize the food… for 1000 people. 

I said yes, without hesitation.  Because that is what you do in times like that.  You all chip in. 
I started phoning a list of contacts he gave me… and offers of food came pouring in.  He had business connections with a Vegetable Grower, and we asked for fruit and veggies to make platters.  A cupcake business donated dozens of cupcakes.  Sandwiches, cookies, squares, you name it were promised and delivered.

So much that the little kitchen at this rather large church was overwhelmed… but here too, on the day of his memorial, volunteers stepped up to the task of organizing platters and putting them out.
And 1000 people were fed, many of them his high school buddies and team mates. 

Somehow, the outpouring of food helps… I can’t explain why in such tragic moments… but it is something people can do. 

That evening we cut up leftover strawberries and filled my brother and his wife’s freezer.  We sat, surrounded by food, just glad to be together.

We called a charity that gives food to Vancouver’s Eastside, and they took the rest of the leftovers, feeding the homeless that evening.  Later we found out that more food had been delivered to the Salvation Army.  And that too was comforting. 

Just weeks ago, our friends received the devastating news that their daughter had died in a car accident.  She was loved, and well known by many.  We ached (and still do!) for her husband, her children, the large extended family. 

We were told at her memorial about the generosity of food… to feed well over 700 people.  Businesses, individuals, others impacted by her life wanted to give… and so they did.

Again, the leftovers fed people on the streets… a gift of love that brought comfort to the family.  It was a beautiful outpouring of love and compassion.

After my nephew’s funeral we prepared to come home… that is the hard part of grief.  Life goes on, people return to work and life, there seems a semblance of normalcy, when in reality everything has changed.

I so dislike the saying that grief gets better with time… it is time that changes us.  A death or loss changes us forever.  It becomes part of our story.  And yet we see so much love and glimpses of good even as we mourn and cry.

We came home that day nine years ago with a lot of celery.  It hadn’t been given away, and needed to be used up.  I couldn’t bear to see it wasted.

So I came home and made cream of celery soup.  Making soup is very therapeutic.  I had never made this kind before, and I honestly don’t know where I got the recipe. 

Later that week, I went to visit a dear elderly grandmother who was deep in grief – her grandson, a soldier had been killed in Afghanistan.  I decided to bring her some soup.

We looked at his pictures and we talked about grief.  “You made me soup!” she said, pleased.    “Cream of Celery” I said…
“Really?” she replied.  “That is my very favourite kind!”

I couldn’t believe it… but God knew…  I have come to believe with all my heart that God enters into our suffering, God cares, God shows up.  We felt that presence and peace in little ways and big ways: like mountains of food to feed the hungry and cream of celery soup to comfort a grieving grandmother. 

We were shown much compassion... I was looking for a graphic and found this in my files.  I think it fits.  

With that compassion we were able to pass it on... for that too brought comfort and healing.  

Cream of celery soup, anyone?  

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Birthday Blessings

I don't normally blog about my birthday, but it was on my mind this week... this getting older business.  Really, it is a blessing.  I was given another year. 

It gives pause to take inventory, evaluate, be grateful and just ponder.  I used to think 60 was old... not anymore!  Although my grandchildren seem to think I'm ancient, and I just find that funny. 

Certainly my mind is more active than ever, even though my body protests a lot.  Part of my evaluation has to find ways to get along with my body.  We have a challenging relationship at times! 

I'm coming to this daily realization - today is a gift.  Am I thankful this gift?

So on my birthday I wrote a little list for myself, to celebrate life.

Thoughts on turning 61:

God is my Provider.
God loves me as I am. 
I AM stronger than I think (or feel at times!)
I can rely on God's power to see me through.
I want to live my life, this year, this decade in
    not anxiety.
I embrace my age and am thankful
  for all God has done for me.

What would your list look like?

I choose a Scripture verse for each week and last week this was my verse:
"Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."  Eph 6:10.

And then we went to our dear friends for supper and what word did she have on the table for this special day?  "Stronger", printed on a rock.  I loved it...

I think it is awesome when God puts little reminders on our path, reminding us that He is with us, that we are not alone, that we have all we need for this sometimes messy journey we call life.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Living by Loving

The last two memorials I attended were for two younger women - and it struck me that both of them lived lives defined by love.  In fact, although they were unrelated in any way, the love chapter from 1 Corinthians 13 was read at both.  

In this blog, I want to tell you about my friend Katelyn.  Her dad and her husband gave me permission to do so, otherwise I would not use her name, or tell her story (from my perspective).

Katelyn lived by love.  She radiated it.  When she was diagnosed with cancer she faced her future with courage and determination.  I did not see any self-pity.

In fact when I would often ask her how I could pray for her in the numerous hospital visits over the last few years, she would often ask for prayer to live better, to love better, to be able to share that love with everyone she met.

The two overseas trips she went on in her young life were an example of that.  She went to India on a missions trip and to Haiti, just after the earthquake.  Her motivation was to help others.

Her sister told me that one day Katelyn had a new jacket, but she saw someone who was cold, and she took the coat off her back and gave it away.  That was her heart.  Even though her own resources were limited, she shared freely.

Like any young person she had hopes and dreams.  She loved music and wanted to sing and write.  And she did.  She was working on a book - she wanted to share her faith and love of Jesus with everyone.  She was motivated to live.

She was also motivated to love.  Shortly after she was told that her cancer had progressed and that her life expectancy was limited, she continued plans to marry.  What joy she had in living in love.  Even through difficulties... she was quite ill just before the wedding... she was able to enter into probably the most joy-filled day of her life.

And it was evident how many loved her by all who came and supported her and her husband.  It was a beautiful garden wedding and I was honoured to attend.

Her loving translated into gratitude.  She was truly grateful for each person who walked into her life.  Her last words were a testament to her life.  She said "I love you. I love everyone!" 

And knowing Katelyn, she meant it with all her heart.  

Every once in a while, I cross the boundary of patient and chaplain and become a friend.  I was blessed to be Katelyn's friend.  When she asked me this past summer if I would officiate at her memorial, I could only say yes.

And she was clear what she wanted.  It was to be a service that honoured Jesus.  And it became a service that celebrated love.

Katelyn had a beautiful simplicity I admired.  But she was also anxious to get it right.  She wanted to live well.  We talked about how God loves us as we are and we don't have to do anything to win God's favour.  

And then we would read this wonderful passage from Romans 8 which became a favourite of ours to share together:  

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38-39

There are some things on earth we will not understand... as the love chapter says in verse 12,  "For now we only see a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 

I receive enormous comfort in those words.  We don't know the whole picture.  But God does.  And some day we'll know fully, even as we are now fully known by the One who created us.

And I can only imagine my friend Katelyn knowing fully, understanding what she might not have understood here on earth.  We talked about our lives stretching into eternity, there is a comma we step over into our eternal home.  It is not a period.  It is not the end.

There has been much loss in my own world lately, and for many I know.  I hope that these simple thoughts will bring comfort... and I know I am challenged to live by love... always.

Monday, March 4, 2019

I'm Giving Up Pain for Lent

Those words jangled in me today, with Ash Wednesday approaching and the question is often asked - what are you going to give up for Lent?

I've seen it all... some ideas more environmental like taking each day to live a "greener" life, and perhaps I should give up my plastic grocery bags... not for lent, but for life.

There's the idea of paying it forward - giving something each day to someone in need during this season of Lent, whether it be clothing or food or even dollars.

Where did Lent come from anyway?  It is not a term used in the Scriptures I read, and yet I like the rhythm of it, the reminder that Easter is coming.  

I looked up "Ask Questions" and here was their answer:  Lent is a period of fasting, moderation, and self-denial traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 46 days (40 days, not counting Sundays). During Lent, participants eat sparingly or give up a particular food or habit. It’s not uncommon for people to give up smoking during Lent, or to swear off watching television or eating candy or telling lies. It’s six weeks of self-discipline.

Which begs the question, What is Ash Wednesday?  

Here is Wikipedia's answer:  Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer, fasting, and repentance. ... Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or the dictum "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

This hits home.

A week ago I recited those words, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, as we laid to rest a young woman who had become a dear friend.  And I've been thinking about those words.

It reminds me of brokenness. A letting go, a reminder of where we come from.  Our brevity.  

 As I thought about brokenness I was deeply touched by these words from Henri Nouwen: 

"Our brokenness reveals something about who we are.  Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives; rather, they touch us in our uniqueness and our most intimate individuality.

The way I am broken tells you something unique about me.  The way you are broken tells me something unique about you.  

That is the reason for my feeling very privileged when you freely share some of your deep pain with me, and this is why it is an expression of my trust in you when I disclose to you something of my vulnerable side.  Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate and unique.  (From the Life of the Beloved - Henri Nouwen).  

It might be said that cancer caused my dear young friend to be broken.  Or the terrible accidents that happened in the last week also caused much brokenness...for those involved and for the families who loved them.  

We think of brokenness, pain, ashes in the negative.  Yes, I could easily give up pain for Lent.  I could live without suffering.  If only...

But this isn't an invitation to comfort.

Ash Wednesday offers us a moment to reflect on what is broken, and to offer up to God what is vulnerable.  Ash is not simply a by-product of what was, but can be transformed into something beautiful such as glass, or nourish the ground, an essential element to growth.  

Ash can be used as traction, and we can use that imagery of God reaching down and helping us not to slip and fall.  God can use the brokenness of our life to bring us to transformation, something beautiful.

I see this as an offering.  We may give up something up for Lent, but there is an invitation to offer ourselves, our broken selves to the Creator who can transform us.

We don't have answers about pain or suffering.  I keep going back to those words of Jesus, over and over again:  "In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world."

We live in the light of eternity where things will NOT be broken.  Somehow I don't think we will practice Ash Wednesday in heaven.  All things will be made new.  

And that is the hope I hang on to, in a world of ashes, and dust and pain.  

I see beauty in people all around, the helpers, the givers, the comforters, the safe havens for those who need it most.

I see beauty in gratitude for gifts given.

I see an invitation to live in this tension of brokenness and hope, knowing that there is a bigger plan, knowing that we are loved, knowing we live in the cusp of the eternal.  

Jesus teaches us through his life, he offers us an upside-down kingdom where he offers his own body to be broken... so we can live.  This is transformation.  

This is hope.  

This is peace beyond understanding.